This left-arm spinner made her debut for India in 2006 and featured in 2 Tests, 23 ODIs, and 5 T20Is, accounting for 44 international wickets. She was a part of the Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Indian Railways team during her playing days. Having hung up her boots from playing cricket, she is eyeing cricket commentary in the future.
Female Cricket got in touch with Preeti Dimri, a former India player to unravel her journey.
Tell us about your early days in cricket.
I started playing cricket at the age of five. My mother, who has been a sports lover, wanted me to pursue cricket and one fine day she took me to Eklavya Sports Ground in Agra. MAK Afghani sir was the coach there at that time and seeing my small frame, he told my mother that I could get hurt playing with the leather ball. But my mother, who was determined to make me a sportsperson, showed indifference and I was admitted to the academy. Hemalatha Kala di was my senior there and it was based on her advice that I decided to become a left-arm spinner. Initially, for the first three years, she suggested I bowl pace so that I could gather strength in my shoulders. From eight years of age, I started spin bowling.
When did you make your debut for Uttar Pradesh?
I vividly remember my debut for the senior state team. I was 12 years old. Back then the senior team was heading to Belgaum to play the nationals but they were short of a bowler. Mohammad Nawab, who was the secretary of our association then, asked Hema di if she had any bowler in mind. She reckoned my name. However, being just 12 years old did not work in my favor. On Hema di’s insistence, I was called for trials and as fortune would have it, I made the cut. I played my first match for UP against Kerala in the senior nationals and scalped five wickets. It was a dream debut for me. A couple of years later, I was selected for the senior India camp. I was a regular in the Challenger Trophy, representing India A, India B, etc.
Around that time you also went to Sri Lanka to play an invitation tournament. Tell us about that.
Yes, I was 15 years old, when I got the opportunity to go to Sri Lanka for an invitation tournament. It was Uttar Pradesh vs Sri Lanka. It was my first international trip and I was very excited to play in that competition. It was a good experience as I could get a first-hand experience of how international players play.
Prior to making your India debut for the senior team, you represented India U-22 against Pakistan in 2005. Can you share with us that experience?
In 2005, India U-22 team toured Pakistan. It was a wonderful experience playing there. We learnt a lot from the other team. We played competitive cricket and the cherry on top was we emerged victorious in the series.
In 2006 you made your India debut. Did you expect it to happen so soon?
Honestly with Neetu (David) di being around, my chances of playing in the Indian team so soon were bleak. Though I was a regular part of the India camp, I never made it to the team. In 2006 it so happened that Neetu di suffered an ankle injury and I got the chance to make my debut for India. I made my debut against Ireland at Dublin and picked up 1-18 in eight overs.
Which has been your favourite performance?
There have been two. First being 5-118 in my debut Test against England which was played at Leicester in 2006. Second, is my comeback series, during which in one of the ODIs, I scalped 3-18 in 10 overs against England at Visakhapatnam. India went on to win that ODI.
After playing for India between 2006 and 2007, you were out of the team, only to make a comeback in 2010. How did you motivate yourself during those three years?
It was a setback for me. I was performing well and for no particular rhyme and reason, I was sidelined. However, I took that in my stride and decided to work even harder. When you are playing at the international level, it is always advantageous to possess more than one skill. I was a good bowler, so I decided to concentrate on my batting, which would make me a better player. I stayed away from any kind of distractions and my only focus was to make a comeback for India. I was glad that my efforts paid off and I was back in India colors.
Now that you have bid adieu to playing cricket, what is your future plan?
I am interested in cricket commentary. I have completed my level 1 and level 2 from Rohit Sharma’s Sports Kingdom academy. I hope to dive into commentary soon.
What message would you like to give to the young girls who are just starting to play cricket?
When I was eight years old, Hema di said just one simple thing to me, “If you want to play for India, only then come here for practice, if not, you can go back to academics.”
My message is the same to all girls who are starting out to play the sport. Hard work and dedication are the two important steps that will help you to climb the ladder of success.
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I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.